PORTLAND – The MOB had it; they had it – a quarterfinals W, clenched in their fists: The team jabbed and jabbed again at Portland/Deering midway through the third on Wednesday night, March 1, going up 4-3 then 5-3 on a pair of Travis Marsh goals that could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been knockout blows, victory-clinchers over a close rival.
And then – and then! Their edge dulled: They relaxed a little; a few pucks bounced against them; the ‘Dogs dug up a stashed bone – three stashed bones. In all of five minutes, Portland/Deering clawed back, tying the game at five-all. Then, in all of five seconds, they ended it, Donnie Tocci swatting a shot past MOB keeper Kyle McKay as time expired to steal a shocking triumph, 6-5.
“Portland was just working hard,” said MOB head coach Loren Blair. “Maybe we got a little complacent. I don’t think we were gassed; we had a couple bounces that didn’t go our way. A couple housekeeping things we didn’t take care of on faceoffs. We just couldn’t finish it tonight.”
Portland/Deering controlled the attack early; a couple fast-break MOB attacking forays availed the team nothing as ‘Dogs keeper Sam Segal turned impressive saves. P/D thus jumped on the board first: Halfway through the period, Miki Silva bested McKay on an assist by Jake Luce for 1-0.
The MOB evened things up less than two minutes later. Thirty seconds into a powerplay, sophomore standout Brandon Caron snipered a wrister from the point past Segal on the left side. Two minutes after that, the ‘Dogs responded, Tocci notching his first of the evening.
But the MOB would have to wait until the second to answer in their turn. With 15 seconds to play before the break, MOB leader Tanner McClure escaped the P/D defense, earning himself a one-on-one with Segal; alas, McClure crossbarred his shot.
Blair talked about his boys’ offensive approach, and their successes: “Just doing our forecheck, staying in our lanes; when you do it correctly, it opens up people’s opportunities, and that’s how we got our goals down in the zone. They weren’t fast-break goals – we get a lot of those from Tanner, Brandon. These were, down in the dirty areas, the game plan worked.”
Three-and-a-half minutes into the second, Caron – hot on Tocci’s heels behind the P/D net – pickpocketed him; Caron reversed course and tried for the wraparound, but Segal thwarted the try. Nevertheless, the MOB kept at it, and moments later, Tyler Ouellette balanced the scoreboard at 2-2 – where the action would linger through the next intermission.
The MOB clashed with Portland/Deering twice in the regular season: first, back on Jan. 28, when the MOB prevailed 8-6, then again on Feb. 2, when the teams tussled to an OT draw at 3-3.
“We just had to execute our game plan,” said Blair, asked what the MOB needed to do claim victory in the teams’ third meeting. “We knew we had to win all the one-on-one battles on the boards; we had to make better passing; we couldn’t make silly turnovers in the neutral zone – we got caught a couple times on that tonight.
“When we came out, first and second, we stuck to our game plan; it went well. We just couldn’t finish it tonight.”
The third erupted goals: Mason Martell kicked off the flurry with a ‘Dogs notch just 28 seconds in; 41 seconds later, Caron dished ahead to McClure, who secured another breakaway and this time found the back of the net on a deke past Segal.
With 8:10 to play, and barely five seconds into a two-minute Martell sentence for unsportsmanlike conduct, the MOB grabbed their first lead of the night, McClure feeding to Marsh and Marsh driving forward for a backhander to Segal’s top corner. 4-3.
Marsh made it 5-3 not two minutes later. Again McClure helped, shoveling from the right P/D corner into Segal’s territory. McClure’s puck deflected off Segal’s cage, but Marsh was there for the follow-up punch past the near-side post.
But that’s when it all went wrong for the MOB. The ‘Dogs doubled-down, pressuring and pressuring some more; the MOB seemed caught a little off their guard. With 4:26 to go, Tocci sliced P/D’s deficit in half, scoring out of a scramble. Then, with a mere 1:07 left, an icing call against Bonny Eagle set up a faceoff in their zone; Segal dashed to the P/D bench.
The puck dropped, and slid backward, onto the stick of right ‘Dogs defenseman Cam King, who immediately blasted a wrister that blew by McKay and revitalized P/D’s hopes at 5-5.
The final minute collapsed into the final 30 seconds, into the final 10 seconds – into the final five seconds. Surely the game was headed to OT. McKay blocked a shot; he didn’t have control of the puck, but the nearest official must have believed as much, because he whistled play dead anyway.
Another faceoff. The puck bounced around on the MOB doorstep, the waning moments ticking away – then, just as the clock wound from 0.1 to 0.0, a Tocci hack somehow teleported past McKay, snuck into his net, and that was it: The ‘Dogs completed a remarkable comeback, and the MOB suffered a wrenching defeat.
“They all came and played,” Blair said of his boys, and in particular his scorers. “They were mentally ready to play tonight; the whole team was. Travis, being a senior, he’s not the strongest on the puck, but he puts himself in a good situation. He’s a defensive forward, and playing our system we wanted to play allowed him to get some points tonight.”
The MOB end their winter at 11-6-2. The team entered the bracketing ranked fifth in A South, a slot back from Portland/Deering, who went 10-7-1 through the regular season.
The MOB are done till ’17-’18, and their battalion of seniors – including McClure, Marsh, McKay, Spencer Shields, Nate Whitehouse, Robbie Axelson and Chandler Doustou – are done for good, but their efforts this year weren’t in vain. The program looks to riot harder than ever in coming seasons.
“The kids played great; they deserve where we’re at,” Blair said. “We were a win away from hosting a playoff game; that would’ve been quite an accomplishment. To come here and compete like this with No. 4 – they did a good job to get where we’re at with what we’ve got. It’s still our third building year. I think it’s looking pretty bright.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Bonny Eagle senior Chandler Doustou pushes forward on the attack for the MOB.
Tanner McClure scored his goal vs. P/D on this breakaway. McClure also had four assists.
Wyatt Blanchette drives forward, looking to capitalize on a one-on-one.
Spencer Shields dashes forward on the attack for the MOB, splitting a pair of P/D opponents.
MOBster Brandon Caron pickpockets ‘Dog Donnie Tocci; the play would eventually lead to a MOB goal.
Travis Marsh scored a pair of goals for the MOB vs. Portland/Deering on Wednesday night, March 1.
Robbie Axelson surveys his pass options for the MOB vs. the ‘Dogs.
Alex Demers – just a stride ahead of a Portland/Deering opponent – looks for pass options.